Monday, January 23, 2012

Trying to Impress a Girl, Concordia Captain Kills 32 People at a Cost of Billions of Dollars

32 lives lost, a ship scrapped and enormous damage to the industry.  Whoops!  The shocking truth is  unbelievable, even as more facts have surfaced since my first posting this.

PR photo in a fake Capt. hat.
You heard it here first, the real story of what really happened aboard that led up to the disaster, actually and factually.  The single largest human disaster ever caused by one married man's desire for the company of a younger woman.

Nothing will change the facts.  At about 9:30 pm, Captain Francesco Schettino came up from dinner with a young woman and, despite having left his eyeglasses in his private cabin, ordered the ship to head closer to shore at high speed (16 knots) for a "sail by salute" while asking another officer to read the charts and radar for him.  He admits he was "navigating by sight", though he doesn't see the apparent irony that he was doing this without his prescription eyeglasses.  At 9:44 they all felt the impact and heard the alarms that the ship had run over a well-marked shoal of rocks and began the desperate task of trying to minimize the upcoming disaster.

What is clear from the girls' Feb. 27, 2012 interview with The Mail is that her account has been severely 'sanitized' by a lawyer who carefully analyzed all the hard evidence anyone had against her (her bags were found in the Captain's quarters, a passenger has a photo of what looks like Dominica time stamped at 8:30 pm, she was on the bridge from just before the collision till the abandon ship was declared).  She agreed to this single interview just days before the official inquiry began, coincidentally.

Dominica, 25, and the Captain, 52, a week prior to the sinking.
With the facts as we now know them, the cause of the Costa Concordia ($569 mn US to build) is fairly clear.  As of Mar. 6, 2012, 25 bodies have been found,  7 are still missing and there's a piece of rock the size of a truck buried in the hull with a 30 meter-long breach in the hull behind it.  Add in all the new holes blown/cut through the hull and it's unlikely that the ship can be put back into service.

This is what happened: during the last week of the previous cruise a 25 year old Moldavian woman, Dominica Cemortan, who had worked on a sister ship, the Magica, as a translator for 3 weeks, got a request to cover another translator's absence on the Concordia.  During that week, she clearly 'got to know' the Captain (see the details in her interview from Feb. 27), as many other crew members took note of and commented upon.
Capt's wife Fabiola Russo, 48

At the end of that one week stint, apparently "spontaneously," she decided to become a passenger for the next week, registering on the Friday morning as she was getting off work and getting back on board as a passenger at 5 pm.  (It's not clear how a ship employee who has only worked for Costa for 4 weeks and is a single mother from Moldavia might have the disposable income to afford such a trip, but she mysteriously got an employee's 50% discount she was not yet entitled to and boarded without an assigned cabin, which 'necessitated' her leaving her things in the Captain's cabin -- must be a crowded cabin with all the luggage from every vacationing crew member in there...)

The white and red to the coral's left are interior walls.
While we may never know what transpired between her boarding at 5 pm, putting her things in the Captain's cabin and getting dressed for dinner in his cabin at 8 pm, but we do know by her own account that after she finished changing they embraced and kissed passionately.  We also know that, after coming up to the bridge together, the Captain diverted the ship from it's normal route to 'grandstand' and bring it close to shore, something he'd done several months before successfully.  This time he was both without his prescription eyeglasses (revealed in the inquiry on Mar. 3, 2012) and apparently otherwise distracted during the 'designed to impress manoeuvre' and ordered turn away from well-mapped rocks too late, causing the momentum of the ship to swing the stern into them and break off an enormous piece of rock in the hull.  (The photo shows white and red painted interior walls of the ship that the collision exposed to the seawater.)

Without his glasses, the Captain had to repeatedly ask an officer to read the chart/radar for him.  What would make a 52 year old man, responsible for all those lives, decide to leave his glasses behind and not retrieve them?  A) Was there someone on the bridge he did not want to take leave of, even for a few minutes, during this 'grandstanding' manoeuvre; and B) he may well have not wanted to 'look like an old man' by having to wear glasses...

Dominica is a single mother with one child.
My cousin-in-law, a veteran sailor on ocean and great lakes vessels, says there's no way the officers on duty would allow the Captain to do something as foolhardy as turn the ship too close to well-marked rocks, but might the group of these men do so in the few minutes between the Captain and his companion arriving on the bridge just after 9:30, his order moments later to take the ship in closer to shore, and the collision at 9:44 IF the Captain's companion looked like and was 'dressed for dinner' like this?

It was a space of time of only a few minutes of distraction and boys will be boys, after all.

Dominica claims the Captain asked her to stay on the bridge to help do emergency announcements for the Russian speaking passengers, but that there were staff on duty who were being paid to do so.  She stayed until the ship drifted into more rocks at 10:50 pm and when at 10:58 the Coast Guard forced the Captain to finally declare an "abandon ship", she apparently went to the Captain's quarters alone, changed from evening dress into jeans and a sweater to evacuate.  She apparently did get into a lifeboat prior to the ship heeling over completely, as did the Captain, who was contacted by the Coast Guard at 12:38 am in a lifeboat from which he refused to return to his ship.  He was arrested at 3:17 am.  She claims she only saw him again after leaving the bridge at 5 am on shore.  The final 80 passengers were air-lifted off the ship after a helicopter was called in at about 4 am.
Click once to open, again to enlarge.
Once everyone was in the process of trying to abandon a ship that was so badly tilted that it was impossible to lower the heavy life rafts down the angled port side of the craft, the Captain claims he 'fell' into a lifeboat and could not get out to direct the evacuation efforts from aboard the cruise ship (the only place he could have 'fallen' off the ship was the bow where there are no life rafts, or off the starboard rail, a side everyone would have been avoiding as it was gradually submerging).  Note that he would have known, from the charts he'd looked at and from their proximity to shore, that there was no way the ship would completely sink, so there should have been no desperate panic on his part to save his own skin.  (He may have been fairly drunk at the time, however...)

What would cause this man, charged with such great responsibility, to be in such a rush to abandon his post and obligations to thousands to get in to a life raft and escape?  Who was actually in that raft with him?  A certain young blond woman, by any chance?  And why did he clearly lie to the Coast Guard Captain who berated him so soundly about returning to the ship?  He seemed determined to give the impression of being a hero AND stay with whoever he was alongside him at the time.  (The truth will come out eventually!)

His 'Disaster Companion' on TV Defending 'Her Captain"
In a mind-boggling twist, the girl went on TV, as a 'former crew member' of the Captain's who happened to had dinner with him, then was on the bridge when he smashed into the first rocks, AND while the ship was going down, to defend her captain for having handled the situation so well, and for "saving countless lives".  Now there's a credible voice!  Perhaps she isn't Moldovian, but from the Isle of Siren...

Further, on Jan. 24 the Captain's wife, 48 year old Fabiola Russo, told the media her hubby "is not a monster", saying: "My husband is at the centre of an unprecedented global media storm," Ms Rossi told Oggi, an Italian weekly magazine. "I cannot think of any other naval or air tragedy in which the responsible party was treated with such violence. This is a manhunt, people are looking for a scapegoat, a monster. It's shameful."  I'm pretty sure she hasn't done the research I did for this post, but her devoted husband is going to be long remembered for his choices on that fateful day!
One thing is abundantly clear from the facts at hand, if the Captain had not been trying to impress Dominica up on the bridge after dinner and had been wearing his glasses, it is unlikely this unprecedented disaster would have happened.  With some wine in his system and a hottie with her bags still down in his quarters, this man was not thinking responsibly.
Ah, passion, it makes us do crazy things, especially when it involves an older married man having a girl 27 years younger showing interest in him...

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